Something awesome recently happened in Istanbul, Turkey. As a city with many hills, Istanbul is home to lots of long staircases that intersect its centuries-old neighbourhoods, enabling pedestrians to avoid streets filled with heavy car traffic.

Last week Huseyin Cetinel, a retired forestry engineer, decided to paint the stairs connecting the neighbourhoods of Findikli and Cihangir all the colors of the rainbow.

"He told the local news media that his original motivation for applying a fresh coat of paint to the stairs was not activism, but the desire “to make people smile.” Mr. Cetinel said he spent nearly $800 on paint and devoted four days to sprucing up the stairs, with help from his son-in-law.”

Public reaction to the colourful stairs was overwhelmingly positive. People turned out in droves to pose for photos on the cheerful staircase. Some decided it was a gesture of support and call for equal rights for the city’s LGBTQ community.

But then sometime strange happened. Just a few days after Huseyin finished beautifying the staircase, residents woke up to discover that overnight the city had hastily re-painted the rainbow steps a dull, disheartening gray. The gray cover-up was so secret and sudden that locals took it very personally. It was interpreted as “a sign of intolerance and a lack of respect for their right to claim public space.”

Speaking to Turkish television reporters after the stairs were painted over, Mr. Cetinel pointed out that all of nature — “cats, birds, flowers, mountains” — is brightly colored. “Where does this gray come from?” he asked. “Did we have another Pompeii and got flooded with ash?”

What happened next is what’s really awesome. Residents began to organize with each other via twitter and soon, not only were Huseyin Cetinel’s stairs returned to their rainbow glory, but - as a sign of solidarity - entirely different stairways all over the city, and eventually in other Turkish cities as well, were painted too.

Click here to view more photos of Istanbul’s new rainbow staircases.

[via Street Art Utopia and The New York Times]